Carl follows Natasha Romanoff into the dangerous world of the Black Widow in DK Books’ incredible new Marvel volume
Ahead of her big-screen solo adventure, DK books are lifting the lid on the legacy of Natasha Romanoff‘s Black Widow. But can this glorious volume truly deliver the definitive guide to Marvel’s greatest super-spy?
I adore these kinds of books. They are not the time-wasting or money-grabbing volumes that entice someone in with all the pretty colors and photos. Nor with promises of great things inside the pages only to let the buyer down with lackluster content. They are and do exactly what they promise on the back cover. They bring the reader everything they hoped for when handing over their hard-earned money. And as such, this volume does it in style once again. Written by Melanie Scott, what is revealed inside will thrill and inform anyone interested in the character and her roots.
Marvel Black Widow: Secrets Of A Super-Spy | By Melanie Scott
The front cover features a drawing of Black Widow herself. No pictures of Scarlett Johansson here. This is the comic-book version of the character, presented to us exactly as she was intended. The spine features a close-up of Widow’s face alongside the title. And on the back cover, we come across various drawn pictures of the now-beloved character. With an information piece detailing what we will discover inside the pages of this volume. We will discover her journey from a Soviet secret assassin right through to her superhero status.
Along the way, we will find out about her activities in the ‘Red Room’. About her journey into becoming an Avenger. And her position as a member of S.H.I.E.L.D and ultimately, her going out on her own. All will be revealed as we open the front cover and start our journey of discovery. Each page and section is accompanied by reproduced drawings from the various comic books the character has appeared in. And every one of them is a wonderous addition, one that makes the text that much more enriching. And, dare I say it, gives the reader something else to marvel at during their journey through the pages.
The volume has five sections in its locker before we end the book at the index section. The sections are listed as: The Early Years, Soviet Spy To Super Hero, A New Life, The Battle Within, and Solo Again. We will travel through her comic book past, From ‘Child Of Steel‘ through to ‘Web Of Horror‘. And along the way, we will discover events and battles that shaped her into the heroine we know and love.
We start with the aforementioned ‘Child Of Steel’. We read and discover exactly what the Black Widow is, her rescue from the ruins of her home by the soldier Ivan Petrovitch. And the web of secrets and lies that make up the strands of her character and where she devised her alias from. We are given her back story, her birth in Stalingrad in 1928 (She looks good for her age). Her discovery by the aforementioned Petrovitch and rescue from a burning building, and how he wasn’t the only one keeping an eye on her as she grew up.
As we come across ‘First Blood’, we find out that Natasha (her real name is actually Natalia) made her first kill as a teenager. And how she chose to go out and make the kill alone without her handler due to her failure to complete the mission on her first attempt. We discover she murdered a target known as ‘The Yugoslavian’ in his car by stabbing him to death, despite being wounded herself. She also attacked the target’s young son, severely wounding him uttering ‘No Witnesses’. However, her failure to kill the boy or to see his young cousin in the back of the car came back to haunt her years later. All this and much more are to be found in this enthralling and informative opening section of the book.
We now move on to ‘Soviet Spy To Super Hero’. It is here where we will follow Natasha on her journey to the other side of the Iron Curtain. And her determination to do her duty for her country. We read and delve into the mission that decreed she murder Ivan Vanko. A Russian defector also known as the powered armor-wearing Soviet agent, Crimson Dynamo. The American technological genius, Tony Stark and his ‘Bodyguard’, Iron Man (not knowing that Stark and Iron Man were the same). During the mission, Natasha was aided by a Russian heavy named Boris. By the end of the mission, Boris was dead, Vanko was too, sacrificing his life in defense of his adopted country, America. And Natasha had fled. But the seeds of witnessing a defector die for his adopted country left an impression on her.
Along the way in this exciting chapter, we discover why Natasha decided to turn her back on the Soviet Union and to become an Avenger. We also discover her past with Hawkeye and her interactions with The Red Guardian. The upcoming movie starring Scarlett Johansson may utilize some of the plot threads that the comics brought into play. And as such, I will not go into too much detail here lest they become some MAJOR spoilers for the film. But it is in this section that we get some of the backstories that the movies have only hinted at so far.
A NEW LIFE
In ‘A New Life’, we notice that the character has started to undergo a major change in her attire and her appearance. It is here where we start to come across the character we have fallen in love with across the Marvel movies. It is here where we see her begin to forge her own identity. How she has gone solo again and is trying to claim back her Black Widow identity. We also see a representation of her battle against Spider-Man that emerged from the Amazing Spider-Man comic of July 1970. We also learn of what Natasha considers her ‘Curse’. Anyone she ever gets close to always seems to die and she is always unable to save them. Even in her romance with Daredevil, she seems to be cursed at every turn.
Ultimately though, with Hawkeye and Daredevil bickering over her and Daredevil refusing to join the Avengers, Natasha DID return to the team; leaving Daredevil behind and out of her life romantically. We also get to see the formation of ‘The Champions’ who became Natasha’s new team in 1976. For those not in the know (and there are many of them), the Champions comprised of Black Widow, Ghost Rider, demigod Hercules and two former members of the X-Men in Angel and Iceman. Later, they would be joined in an unofficial capacity by Darkstar, another defector from the Soviet Union and very similar to Natasha except that Darkstar had gained superpowers. The section is completely thrilling and enjoyable and the text describes the action and the story brilliantly.
We come now to ‘The Battle Within’. Here we will follow the Widow as she ends up on the wrong side of the law. Although she was retired, an encounter with a stranger on a lonely desert road signaled that she would have to get herself back into the game once more. It was during this part of her comic book life that secrets started to come out regarding Natasha. And her compatriots. About how the ‘Widows’ had been injected with a serum. About how she had been under the influence of a certain pheromone. One that had been disguised in an aftershave that brought her to her knees and rendered her powerless against an adversary who was wearing the scent.
That is until she had her nose broken and couldn’t smell it! Payback time is coming! We also follow Natasha as she is forced to relocate to Cuba and seek the help of her former adversary. And another former Widow in Yelena Belova. Once more, Yelena is a character who appears in the upcoming movie. And so, we cannot be told too much of the story here, again lest it contains spoilers. But I can reveal that we are brought the Civil War storyline that featured in the third ‘Captain America‘ movie as we continue our journey through Natasha’s life and career. As we go through the section, we find out several storylines and events that would make for some fantastic movies if Marvel ever decided to go down that route.
Finally, we come to the ‘Solo Again’ section. Once more, we are with the Widow as she makes her escape in a Helicarrier after being labeled an enemy of S.H.I.E.L.D. We follow the action as more plots are unveiled and more villains arise. Especially the ‘Weeping Lion’ who has designs on using Natasha’s past as a weapon against her. We discover how The Weeping Lion believed that his psionic powers would give him the edge. And facilitate an easy victory against Widow. But, of course, she was more than ready for him.
We discover how Natasha’s former headmistress at the Red Room took her own life instead of allowing Natasha to obtain her secrets. We hang on as Widow and the Winter Soldier take on Recluse. One of the former classmates of the Red Room. We watch as she rescues the remaining children assassins of the Dark Room. And we are on her side as she resists the malign version of Captain America as he leads a Hydra takeover of the United States. We swallow and hold back the tears once more as Natasha Romanoff sacrifices her life and dies preventing Miles Morales‘ Spider-Man from becoming a killer. Accomplishing her mission at the cost of her own life. But of course, this is a comic book. And death in a comic book rarely gets in the way of the character returning from the grave once again.
The images featured throughout the book have been taken from various comic books that have featured Black Widow ever since she first made her bow. They are wondrous to behold. They are true works of art. Art that over the years, has been reproduced, enlarged, and sold off to hang on the walls of homes and galleries around the world. To see some of them once again after all this time; since I lost almost all of my collection in this book was in itself, an absolute joy. But with Melanie Scott’s words added in, the book becomes so much more.
It is, in a sense, the perfect tribute to the character. The perfect volume for her to have all to herself. Her story is bared here for all to see and digest. And it is Melanie Scott’s words that make the book something that comic-book fans cannot be without. I adore comic books. And the characters that leap off the pages and into the minds and hearts of the reader. Black Widow is one of them. And Melanie Scott’s book brings her into my heart and my mind once more. Only to be joined by the book itself. It is one I shall cherish and will take complete pleasure in fitting into my collection. Where it deserves to be.
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Editors Note: A big thank you to our friends at DK Books for sending over our advance review copy.
Carl Roberts is the News Editor of The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force frequently!